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Mental health screenings, risk behavior interventions needed in juvenile justice system
Date:1/28/2008

PROVIDENCE, R.I. Kids who have been arrested and are depressed are more likely to use drugs and alcohol and engage in unsafe sexual activity that puts them at greater risk for HIV, according to new research from the Bradley Hasbro Childrens Research Center.

Findings of the study, published in the January issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, suggest the need for depression screenings as part of the juvenile intake process in order to determine appropriate mental health, substance use and HIV risk behavior interventions.

We know that symptoms of depression may be a factor that is linked to both drug and alcohol use and sexual risk-taking behaviors, said lead author Marina Tolou-Shams, Ph.D., of the Bradley Hasbro Childrens Research Center and an assistant research professor of psychiatry at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. However, juvenile offenders arent routinely screened for emotional difficulties, such as depression or anxiety rather, everyone tends to focus more on their conduct or behavioral problems.

She said that understanding more about the association between depression and risky behaviors can help create protocols for appropriately screening, assessing and identifying the needs of juvenile offenders and lead to positive health outcomes.

The current study is one of the first to examine the link between substance use, mental health and sexual risk among high-risk youth who have an arrest history but may not have been detained or incarcerated. According to Tolou-Shams, these kids may be at similar risk to those detained but are often released back to the community without ever having their needs comprehensively identified.

Researchers assessed the depressive symptoms, sexual behavior, substance use, risk attitudes and mental health history of 835 sexually active adolescents and young adults, ages 15 to 21, from Providence and Atlanta who participated in a larger, mul
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Contact: Jessica Collins Grimes
jgrimes2@lifespan.org
401-432-1328
Lifespan
Source:Eurekalert

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